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Monday, May 29, 2017

ARMM steps up humanitarian interventions in Marawi crisis

ILIGAN CITY - The incursion of the local terror group Maute and elements of the Abu Sayyaf into Marawi City has inflicted immense sufferings to residents in the city that are bound to persist long after the end of the siege.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has recorded nearly 85,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are either staying in designated evacuation centers or in their relative’s houses in nearby towns in Lanao del Sur or Iligan City. Its crisis management center has also confirmed at least 3,717 stranded individuals and 59 missing persons in the city.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman immediately activated and convened the region’s Crisis Management Committee to plan and evaluate the region’s response upon confirmation of the crisis. He called for the establishment of a crisis management center at the region’s seat in Cotabato City with emergency hotlines to facilitate assistance to affected residents.
Meanwhile, Regional Vice-Governor and concurrent secretary of the region’s Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) headed to Marawi City to lead the ARMM’s emergency response on the ground.
The ARMM government through its Humanitarian and Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) has already provided help to 13,522 internally displaced families and will be dispatching more relief operations to identified evacuation centers.
The Islamic City of Marawi
Marawi is one of the only two cities in the ARMM. It is situated in the province of Lanao del Sur and has a population of more than 200,000 based on the 2015 census, a vast majority of whom are Muslims.
It is home to the main campus of the Mindanao State University (MSU), a premier state university that attracts thousands of students all over Mindanao and the rest of the country.
The terror and displacement have made the observance of Ramadan unusually sombre and taxing for the city’s vastly Muslim population.
Halfway Home
It was a typical afternoon of May 23 at the MSU Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU IIT) campus in Iligan City when Dr. Marie Joy Banawa, dean of the school’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), heard news of the unfolding crisis in Marawi City. She was alarmed upon seeing a post of MSU students in distress in her social media feed.
Dean Joy said she didn’t know then where to get the resources or how to mobilize support, but she was determined that her campus must help. With the support of MSU IIT’s chancellor, her fellow faculty and student volunteers, Dean Joy established a halfway center at the CASS building for MSU students caught in the fighting.
She said through the donations and student volunteers, they were able to provide food, shelter, minimal financial assistance and psychosocial aid to the affected students. Dean Joy said they have already catered to approximately 800 students.
Among those they’ve assisted are the Altorino siblings Francis, Janelli and Joseph who hail from Butuan City. The eldest, Francis, 24, a first year law student in MSU Marawi City said they were initially reluctant to evacuate.
“Medyo sanay na po kami kung barilan lang ang naririnig. Di lang namin inexpect na ganito kalala. (We were used to hearing gunfights. We didn’t expect that it would get this worse),” Francis said.
He said they were alarmed about reports that the terrorist group only targets Christians like them, but they worry more for the people trapped in their homes amidst the gunfight and airstrikes. The siblings are confident that the crisis will not erode the bond among people of different faiths in Marawi City.
Student Volunteer
MSU IIT’s halfway center has also attracted volunteer students like 19-year old Esnaira Tambie, a junior high student from Marawi City who herself is an evacuee. She and her family now stay at a relative’s house in Iligan City after making an arduous 12-hour travel to escape the fighting.
Esnairah said she feels heartbroken for what’s happened to her city and for the families who might have to spend the entire month of Ramadan away from home.
Despite her personal ordeal, Esnairah keenly volunteered to assist in the halfway center for the distress students.
ARMM is ready
Marawi City has never faced a crisis of this extent which threatens to break not just its thriving infrastructures but also the spirit of its people.
The ARMM government, on the other hand, is expecting a drawn-out crisis and is preparing for a comprehensive humanitarian intervention.
Governor Hataman assured residents that the regional government is ready to respond to their needs and is working closely with other government agencies and private institutions to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians. (Bureau of Public Information)
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